The incredible events of last week re-introduced direct action into the fight for LGBT equality and gave the LGBT movement a much-needed shot in the arm.
The launch of GetEQUAL, the arrests of 13 activists demanding federal action on DADT and ENDA, and the ENDA blog swarm that generated hundreds of phone calls to congressional offices tapped into the growing anger in the LGBT community over our being denied basic equal rights. News, photos, video, and commentary about those events, and the Human Rights Campaign sponsored Repeal DADT rally spread with amazing speed across social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and virtually every gay blog.
As I said in my post A New Queer Order? on The Bilerico Project, LGBT people are "mad as gay hell and they're not going to take it any more."
But, now what?
The explosion of gay activist energy last week shows we are in a strong position to make our case for full LGBT equality and to demand federal action this year.
Democrats made clear promises to the LGBT community during the 2006 and 2008 elections and in return we gave them our votes. We are right to hold them to their words. We are also right to demand an end to the almost unified opposition to LGBT equality coming from Republicans.
What We Learned:
- Direct action is sexy and by using it GetEQUAL has tapped into the frustration at federal inaction on LGBT issues many LGBT people feel and that many gay organizations have been unable to capitalize on or to mobilize.
- Smart use of new media including social networking sites, online video, and blogs is an effective way to spread our message and recruit new supporters.
- Online communications can generate offline action that has real world impact. It's no longer a question of either/or. We should be using both online and offline tactics. And, any group that doesn't, risks becoming irrelevant.
- Direct action and rallies are great for mobilizing the base, generating media attention, and amping up the pressure on elected officials and other targets. Disconnected from a coherent and multi-faceted strategy they can become nothing more than making noise.
To take full advantage of this political moment, we need to focus less on doing what makes us feel good and focus more on building a coherent, if not unified, strategy for effective action.
We should work aggressively to move public opinion through public education campaigns, move lawmakers through professional and grassroots lobbying campaigns, increase the number of pro-LGBT elected officials through our involvement with political campaigns, and we should never be afraid to call out the lies of anti-LGBT organizations and some in the traditional media. And, we should light a fire under everyone by calling attention to the justness of our cause through direct action.
LGBT groups from Human Rights Campaign and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to state advocacy groups and GetEQUAL have a real opportunity to better coordinate their organizational tactics and missions. We have similar goals and little time for the usual community drama and in-fighting. Nothing would please the anti-gay right more than for the LGBT movement to split into warring camps over differences in strategy.
We would be a much more powerful movement with HRC making our case on Capital Hill, GetEQUAL in the streets, GLAAD aggressively working the media, and groups like Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and Fight Back New York helping to elect pro-LGBT candidates with each of those groups recognizing the need for the others.
There's a lot of LGBT generated political heat right now. Let's work to ensure that it leads to the fires of real change. The LGBT community needs and demands it.